21 November, 2015
Now, the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories.
Thanksgiving. Just as it sounds, Thanksgiving is a holiday when people give thanks for all the good in their lives.
Americans celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November. Family and friends gather around the dinner table, eat a big meal together and say what they are thankful for.
In other words, they count their blessings.
Here is Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby singing "Count Your Blessings" in the 1954 movie "White Christmas."
"If you're worried and cannot sleep, count your blessing instead of sheep. And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings"
To count your blessing is to be grateful for all your good fortune in life. But sometimes we use it as a warning to people who may forget to be thankful.
Here's is an example of how to use it that way:
I am so mad at my mother-in-law. She has invited the whole family on a Mediterranean cruise even though she knows that I get sea sick.
You know, you should really count your blessings. You have a great family who loves you and wants to spend money on you! Be thankful. Some people have it much worse.
A blessing is something that helps you or brings you happiness.
The word "blessing" comes from Old English, meaning "blood." As the word evolved, it borrowed from the Latin word that means to praise or worship – literally, "to speak well of."
The verb "bless" is a word you hear often in American English. This is because "Bless you!" is a common response to someone when they sneeze.
Speaking in a non-religious way, "bless" means to make something lucky or happy. In a religious way, "bless" means to ask God to care for, protect, or make something or someone holy.
And if a person talks about a blessed event they are talking about expecting a child. This is slightly romantic, a little formal and a lot religious. So, use accordingly.
And please take note of the difference between "blessed" and "bles-sed." "Blessed" is the past tense of the verb "bless," but "blessed" is the adjective.
The word "bless" definitely has religious roots and meanings. But we use the word in other expressions as well.
If something is a mixed blessing, it is both good and bad. For example, being beautiful can be a mixed blessing. You may get positive attention for your beauty. But people may also be too shy to talk to you or look at you as being not very smart.
We might also express this same meaning by saying something is a blessing and a curse.
A blessing in disguise is something that seems to be bad or unlucky at first sight, but actually turns out to be good.
For example, my trip to New York City was canceled. However, the cancellation was a blessing in disguise. A big snow storm hit and shut down all the airports. I would have been stranded at the airport for days.
Now blessing someone may sound like a good thing, but sometimes it is not.
When someone, often a woman, says bless her heart about another, it means she feels sorry for that person. She is usually expressing pity more than concern. Truth be told, it is often a way of insulting someone indirectly without making yourself look bad for doing so.
"Bless her heart" is a common expression in the southern U.S. states. So, it sounds more natural when pronounced with a slight southern accent.
However, when someone says another person is blessed with a quality or talent, they really mean it. For example, "He is blessed with athletic abilities." Or "She is blessed with a beautiful singing voice."
And we at VOA Learning English are especially blessed with a great audience who loves learning English!
I'm Anna Matteo.
Tell us what you are thankful for in the Comments section or post on 51VOA.COM.
Anna Matteo wrote this piece for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.